Being a good girl did not work for Lilly Ledbetter. It will not work for you.
Satya Nadella came under fire Thursday for comments at a conference celebrating women in computing, in which the new Microsoft CEO suggested that women who don’t ask for raises have “good karma” and that not asking for equal pay with men is a “superpower.” “It’s not really about asking for the raise,” Nadella told the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, held in Phoenix, “but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.” He added that “women who don’t ask for raises” have a “superpower … because that’s good karma, that’ll come back … that’s the kind of person that I want to trust.”
He has since backtracked, mea culpa, mea maximum culpa-style:
Nadella did eventually apologize in an email to Microsoft employees Thursday night. “I answered that question completely wrong,” he wrote. “I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”
YES IF YOU DESERVE A RAISE YOU SHOULD ASK FOR ONE. But come on, dude, how about an acknowledgement of the sexism of the system, the sexism you yourself just amply demonstrated? How about an apology for that? If your boss believes that your superpower includes 1) doing A+ work, and 2) having no needs — being serene in your knowledge that, however unfair it may be that you earn 75% of what the guy next to you takes in, everything will come out in the wash eventually — then of course you’re going to be hesitant about approaching him for more money. His good opinion of you is tied to his assumption that you are non-threatening.
Calling passivity a superpower is so condescending that it makes my gums bleed. That is what it amounts to, by the way, that way of operating, where you keep your head down and hope that you will be noticed and rewarded for your industry, thrift, and small footprint. That is passive. That is being a good girl, and capitalism does not actually reward being a good girl. It sure as hell rewards the exploitative employer, though, who can get away with underpaying you by not giving you what you never request.
If you want to believe that the meek will someday inherit the earth as a personal religious philosophy, fantastic. If you want to think that karma works, great. But if you want to make a living in contemporary, cut-throat America, you have to focus less on being a good girl and more on figuring out how to be a confident employee.
At least the dude CEO of Microsoft is getting a good
drubbing schooling. Keep it up, Feminism. Let him return home so chastened he realizes he should set up conference calls and seminars with managers where he instructs them to closely examine their assumptions and methods, to analyze who gets paid what in their departments and to correct any imbalances. Maybe he can even change company policy. I dare to dream!
Oh and women of Microsoft? Here is the bull, and here are the horns. Catch. .